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Internet Complicates Doctor-Patient Relationships

Internet Complicates Doctor-Patient Relationships

Patients who ask their doctor about information they have read on the Internet, or webs that better inform them of their diagnosis, are no longer a rarity.

A study undertaken by Spanish researchers reveals the advantages and disadvantages of online medical enquiries.

Some 31% of doctors believe that the Internet complicates their relationship with patients and undermines their credibility.

Health information on the Internet is changing the relationship between doctors and patients. "Although the e-patient is a new phenomenon that is growing exponentially, very few studies analyse it from a doctor's point of view," José Joaquín Mira, main author of the working paper published recently in the journal entitled Atención Primaria (Primary Health Care in English) and a researcher at Miguel Hernández University explained to SINC.

As a result, the researchers analysed the opinion of 660 doctors who all work for the Spanish National Health System (330 in primary health care and 330 in hospitals) in the provinces of Alicante, Madrid, Zaragoza and Huesca. Results show that 96% of the doctors surveyed have been questioned by their patients about information they have read on the Internet. Furthermore, almost three out of every 10 professionals recommend websites to their patients.

The doctors who work in hospitals devote more time to the Internet, take more advantage of resident training resources and cooperate more with specific websites than their primary health care counterparts. But opinions coincide when the influence of the Internet on their relationship with patients is analysed. According to 31% of doctors, Internet complicates their relationship with patients and undermines their credibility.

As regards the advantages that the Internet provides to the people who go to the doctor, the first (42%) is that it helps patients to learn about their illness. However, only 20% of the doctors surveyed said that the Internet increased patient independence.

"All the specialists agree that they do not believe the Internet favours patient independence". Moreover, many believe it can undermine the credibility of doctors. As a result, doctors do not normally suggest websites to their patients for complementary information, Mira clarifies.


"Over 40% of the Spanish surf the Internet for health information. (Credit: Image courtesy of Plataforma SINC)"

Source: Plataforma SINC

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